Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
If Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans retired today, he would have had a very nice career. A just 24 years old, four years into his professional career, Evans has already amassed 4,579 receiving yards, 309 catches with 32 touchdowns.
If Evans retired today, he would also be one of the best Buccaneers receivers in franchise history. He is currently third all-time in the team’s record books for receiving yards, trailing only Mark Carrier and Kevin House – names he will pass this year with one more healthy season at his career’s pace. And when it comes to receiving touchdowns, Evans trails only Bucs Ring of Honor tight end Jimmie Giles by two scores when it comes to the No. 1 spot in Tampa Bay history. If everything just goes according to his career average, Evans will own every Buccaneers’ major receiving record in franchise history all by the age of 25.
Since coming into the league in 2014, Evans has been a name to covet in the passing game around the NFL. But around all the accolades and the well-deserved praise, there is an area of his game that has, to this point, constantly alluded Evans in terms of his production on the field and that is the statistic of yards after the catch [YAC].
“I think  was my worst year in YAC,” Evans said after the team’s first OTA practice of 2018. “I’ve got another hurdle to jump over and I think I’ll be much better this year. I’ve got to do better in that category, and I think if I do, I’ll be the most complete receiver.”
The problem is, Evans saying that 2017 was his worst YAC year isn’t like him saying he was good at it before and last year he just wasn’t. He’s actually struggled at YAC for a while. In 2016, Evans had 1,321 receiving yards but only recorded 169 of those yards after the catch. That average of 1.8 yards after catch was second worst among qualifying NFL players (more than 25 catches).
In 2017, it was even worse.
|1||Todd Gurley II, RB||LAR||64||87||788||12.3||6||80||12||52.5||0||763||32|
|2||Le’Veon Bell, RB||PIT||85||107||655||7.7||2||42||5||43.7||1||699||31|
|3||Alvin Kamara, RB||NO||81||100||826||10.2||5||40||11||51.6||0||661||38|
|4||C. McCaffrey, RB||CAR||80||113||651||8.1||5||37||7||40.7||0||576||36|
|5||Golden Tate, WR||DET||92||122||1,003||10.9||5||71||10||62.7||1||546||44|
|6||Duke Johnson Jr., RB||CLE||74||93||693||9.4||3||41||9||43.3||2||538||31|
|7||Mark Ingram, RB||NO||58||71||416||7.2||0||54||3||26.0||1||496||19|
|8||Antonio Brown, WR||PIT||101||162||1,533||15.2||9||57||27||109.5||3||492||71|
|9||Chris Thompson, RB||WSH||39||54||510||13.1||4||74||9||51.0||0||483||22|
|10||Jerick McKinnon, RB||MIN||51||68||421||8.3||2||41||7||26.3||0||473||20|
|11||Tyreek Hill, WR||KC||75||105||1,183||15.8||7||79||15||78.9||0||467||41|
|12||Jarvis Landry, WR||MIA||112||160||987||8.8||9||49||6||61.7||3||466||60|
|13||Melvin Gordon, RB||LAC||58||83||476||8.2||4||49||4||29.8||0||462||22|
|14||Keenan Allen, WR||LAC||102||159||1,393||13.7||6||51||18||87.1||1||458||74|
|15||Julio Jones, WR||ATL||88||149||1,444||16.4||3||53||23||90.3||0||457||67|
|16||Travis Kelce, TE||KC||83||123||1,038||12.5||8||44||19||69.2||0||441||55|
|17||Theo Riddick, RB||DET||53||71||444||8.4||2||63||5||27.8||0||427||20|
|18||Michael Thomas, WR||NO||104||149||1,245||12.0||5||43||22||77.8||0||423||70|
|19||Adam Thielen, WR||MIN||91||143||1,276||14.0||4||65||20||79.8||3||422||59|
|20||Kareem Hunt, RB||KC||53||63||455||8.6||3||78||4||28.4||0||410||18|
|21||Randall Cobb, WR||GB||66||91||653||9.9||4||46||7||43.5||1||409||29|
|22||Giovani Bernard, RB||CIN||43||60||389||9.0||2||61||3||24.3||0||406||16|
|23||Larry Fitzgerald, WR||ARI||109||161||1,156||10.6||6||37||16||72.3||1||405||66|
|24||Cooper Kupp, WR||LAR||62||95||869||14.0||5||64||12||57.9||1||387||42|
|25||Jamison Crowder, WR||WSH||66||104||789||12.0||3||41||12||52.6||1||365||37|
The list above shows the Top 25 yards after catch players in the NFL. You won’t find Evans’ name on that list. But, that’s okay, right? I mean, a lot of those players are running backs and where they catch the ball on the field, by nature, allows them to get more yards after the catch anyway. So, Evans not being in the Top 25 is fine – even though players like Antonio Brown, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas are all there.
Maybe Evans is just outside that list.
With just 132 yards after catch on 71 catches in 2017, Evans was ranked 154th among all NFL players in that category.
|1||Antonio Brown, WR||PIT||101||162||1,533||15.2||9||57||27||109.5||3||492||71|
|2||Julio Jones, WR||ATL||88||149||1,444||16.4||3||53||23||90.3||0||457||67|
|3||Keenan Allen, WR||LAC||102||159||1,393||13.7||6||51||18||87.1||1||458||74|
|4||DeAndre Hopkins, WR||HOU||96||176||1,378||14.4||13||72||24||91.9||1||349||69|
|5||Adam Thielen, WR||MIN||91||143||1,276||14.0||4||65||20||79.8||3||422||59|
|6||Michael Thomas, WR||NO||104||149||1,245||12.0||5||43||22||77.8||0||423||70|
|7||Tyreek Hill, WR||KC||75||105||1,183||15.8||7||79||15||78.9||0||467||41|
|8||Larry Fitzgerald, WR||ARI||109||161||1,156||10.6||6||37||16||72.3||1||405||66|
|9||Marvin Jones Jr., WR||DET||61||108||1,101||18.0||9||58||20||68.8||0||201||44|
|10||Rob Gronkowski, TE||NE||69||106||1,084||15.7||8||53||18||77.4||1||362||57|
|11||Brandin Cooks, WR||NE||65||114||1,082||16.6||7||64||18||67.6||0||235||42|
|12||A.J. Green, WR||CIN||75||145||1,078||14.4||8||77||9||67.4||2||309||55|
|13||Travis Kelce, TE||KC||83||123||1,038||12.5||8||44||19||69.2||0||441||55|
|14||Golden Tate, WR||DET||92||122||1,003||10.9||5||71||10||62.7||1||546||44|
|15||Mike Evans, WR||TB||71||135||1,001||14.1||5||42||9||66.7||1||132||55|
Listed above are the 15 receivers who topped 1,000 yards in 2017. Evans barely cleared that mark, so his numbers should be relatively lower, if you’re taking consistency into account. But, if you’ll notice, no other wide receiver is even close to Evans’ low yards after catch total. After Evans, the next closest wide receiver who hit 1,000 yards was Marvin Jones Jr., who ranked 98th in yards after the catch, and then Brandin Cooks, who ranked 72nd. After that, the rest of those players were in the Top 30 in terms of all NFL players gaining yards after the catch.
This shouldn’t be, right? Bucs offensive Todd Monken agrees.
“The next step for Mike Evans is getting those yards after the catch,” Monken said. “Evans is just too talented to just catch and fall.”
I don’t think anyone would disagree with him there. Evans truly is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and has only gotten better as his years have gone on. Though the stats have been up and down for a variety of reasons, he is a constant talent in Tampa and in the NFL. But, when someone asks you the question “Who are your Top 5 receivers in the NFL?” how many have Evans in their answer? Probably not as many as they should.
Perhaps a reason for that is that alluring yards after catch statistic. But, four years in and only one season under his belt where he’s topped 200 yards after catch, is that really something Evans is going to improve on, or is it not in the cards for him? Better yet, does it need to be?
Does Evans truly need those yards after catch to be a constant name in the Top 5 at his position, and is that really a part of his game that could grow or is it just a nice quote to hear during the offseason – is Evans just who he is without the YAC, like Keyshawn Johnson was during his career in Tampa Bay and elsewhere?
We answer that question in depth by looking at Evans’ film on the next page.